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P62-M gov’t peace projects benefit conflict-affected, vulnerable towns in Region-12

Koronadal City—Some P62 million worth of various community peace projects have been completed and now benefiting thousands of families in conflict-affected and vulnerable towns in Region-12.
Bai Zorahayda T. Taha, regional director of Department of Social and Welfare and Development field office XII, said that the amount represents the 138 community projects through the government’s flagship peace and development framework.
“These projects are part of the government’s firm intent for peacebuilding and development in conflict affected and vulnerable areas in Mindanao,” Taha said.
Pikit, an affected armed conflict town, has completed P27.8 million, while Arakan and Libungan, considered as conflict-vulnerable towns got P20.7 million and P13.5 million, respectively, an agency data shows.
Taha added that the projects form part of the synergized efforts of the agency, local government units, village officials and volunteers with funding support from Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) though its PAyapa at MAsaganang PamayaNAn Project.
Among the completed projects, according to Taha, included peace centers, community livelihood initiatives, pre and post-harvest facilities, electrifications, water systems, roads, flood controls, educational facilities, and many others.
Meanwhile, Emerita Q. Dizon, DSWD-12 regional project coordinator, said that the agency’s PAMANA projects go beyond the usual infrastructure projects since it employed a community-driven development (CDD) strategy to ensure participatory, collective and inclusive decision-making process.
“As complementary tract to national government’s peace initiative, the process itself fosters peaceful relations between and among communities and addresses the root of conflict,” Dizon said.
Currently, these three towns have been granted an additional of P27 million worth of various community projects that are expected to be completed before the year ends. ### HILBERT T. ESTACION

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DSWD12 sets to validate SocPen beneficiaries

The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) is set to validate the Social Pension beneficiaries this semester.

This is based on the General Appropriations ACT (GAA) for CY 2014 that states only the indigent senior citizens registered in the Listahanan or the National Household Targeting System for Poverty Reduction (NHTS-PR) database should be paid for their social pension or benefits for the year.

Thus, the GAA provision necessitated the National Household Targeting Office (NHTO) to conduct an immediate validation of senior citizens who have been receiving social pension benefits in previous year but are apparently not identified poor by DSWD.

Using the data from the Listahanan, the said special validation aims to verify the poverty status of the current recipients of the program and ensure that only the qualified poor will continue receiving benefits from it.
Social Pension is being implemented in accordance with the Expanded Senior Citizen’s Act of 2010. It grants qualified beneficiaries P500 monthly stipend each to augment their daily subsistence and medical needs.

Accordingly, the priority beneficiaries of the Social Pension are senior citizens 77 years old and above who are frail, sickly and disabled, without a regular source of income and/or support from any member of the family, and not receiving other pension benefits from government and private agencies.

To assess the socio-economic status of the beneficiaries, DSWD will utilize the Family Assessment Form (FAF). The data gathered from the validation will be subject to Proxy Means Testing (PMT) to determine whether the household assessed is poor or not.

Beneficiaries who will be found not qualified for the program may lose their monthly pension.

Meanwhile, through the National Household Targeting Unit (NHTU), DSWD 12 will deploy twenty-nine (29) field staff for the special validation. Out of which, twenty four (24) staff will be assigned as Enumerators and five (5) staff will be assigned as Area Supervisors. End ### SMU

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The Road Less Travelled

The way to the Barangay Daluga is one of the least travelled roads in Bagumbayan, a first class municipality in Sultan Kudarat province. The seemingly unending impassable and dangerous paths that villagers have to deal with, stretching 30 kilometers from the town proper, made their lives more burdensome.

Riding in a “habal-habal” motorcycle in a chilly Friday morning of January 17, 2014, I travelled to this mountainous remote village, journeying again for three and half hours of walk and ride.

In ascending to the place, one cannot ignore the lush forests adorned with brilliant green leaves crisscrossed with the cool mountain streams and falls along the way, undeniably breathtaking to hold and that, the higher you reach; the more you can see and appreciate this very promising place.

As Community Facilitator, Daluga is my second home for more than one year. Upon seeing me, I was welcomed with the unsolicited smiles of volunteers and local officials, warming me up like a mother to their precious daughter, enough for my stress and burden of long hours of travel to vanish like a thin mist in the air.

I was in place that day to turn over all the copies of sub-project documents for the file of barangay and monitor our one-unit-three classroom school building amounting to P2.03 million, constructed through one of the Philippine’s flagship poverty-reduction programs, Kapit-Bisig Laban sa Kahirapan-A Comprehensive and Integrated Delivery of Social Services (Kalahi-CIDSS), completed several months ago and now being benefited by the community.

What is really inspiring about this place is how the Project helped to inculcate value of education to community. More than the difficult paths of Daluga, it is really the road to education that most Daluga villagers least travelled to.

Data showed that roughly 20% only of the household parents in the village was able to finish high school, the rest were either elementary or secondary school drop-outs. Based on the record of Daluga Elementary School for the school year 2013-2014, out of 59 household parents who are sending their children to school, only 12 finished secondary education. Worst, there are still some who can barely able to read and write.

One of our most active project volunteers is Lira Rodriguez, 39 years old and a mother of two. She is the teacher in-charge (TIC) of Daluga Elementary School. She was in the newly-constructed classroom, comfortably holding class with her grade 6 pupils when I visited her.

When I first set my feet in this school, I witnessed how their class was disrupted because of the rainwater leaking through the roof of their old and dilapidated makeshift classroom made of bamboo. Like little chicks grouping together, they were jostling for space free from raindrops.

Some classes were held in the makeshift classrooms because there were only three existing rooms. These were not enough to accommodate 142 elementary pupils of DES, from kinder to grade 6. So, despite the campaign to send children to school, the fact that they don’t have enough school building, some parents did not respond to it. Some sent their children to nearby schools but still many ending up dropping because of the distance.

When Kalahi-CIDSS came in the middle of 2012, convening people was a huge challenge for the group, especially to me as Community Facilitator. Thanks to the Pantawid Pamilya parents beneficiaries and teachers of Daluga Elementary School headed by Mam Lira. We actively conducted house to house invitations and orientations to convince people to participate in the Project, much more also about the importance of school building, of education in the community.

Our efforts were gone unnoticed. Villagers actively participated, involved and engaged themselves in various Project activities, especially the marginalized indigenous people (IP) belonging to T’boli tribe. Hand in hand, they were there from identification of project, community trainings, workshops and other activities to capacitate them in implementing and managing their own sub-project.

Aside from to people to actively participate in the community development decisions, the Project was seen as a huge opportunity to influence people’s attitudes and behaviors, in whatever activities we have, from simple chitchat to serious topics, we never failed to inculcate to the minds of villagers that education is not an option, but an imperative, a requirement for a better future.

For the first time, our Project volunteers who were elementary and high school dropouts were convened, went to school again through the Alternative Learning System (ALS) Program of the Department of Education, which Mam Lira served as teacher.

The volunteers were given an opportunity to finish elementary or high school education if they able to pass the Accreditation and Equivalency (A&E) Examination. However, the primary concept of this was to increase the knowledge of volunteers, upon realizing how difficult to manage a Project having lack of education. It also aimed to refresh and teach parents valuable life skills and academic lessons so that they can assist their children in their studies, which greatly affecting the performance of pupil.

Mam Lira showed me that there is an increase of 10% in the overall school attendance now and it continues to increase as the school year ends. For some this is small number, but this is representing good number of parents now stop bringing their children to farms in finding livelihood means. More and more parents are willing to attend school activities including alternative learning classes to learn, indicating the change, looking education never the way before.

My heart and my mind could not contain the feeling of gladness seeing these changes. I was somehow proud I am part in empowering these villagers, putting an indelible mark in their hearts and minds to value education above all. Like me, that despite other jobs that I can have, I still chose the difficult, time consuming yet enjoyable road to Daluga, so as the road education . Like the way to this place, in education, indeed, the higher you reach, the more you can see and appreciate.

As I descended the place that day, it was neither the spectacular views nor the cold breeze that was running through my mind. It was the feeling of loneliness, of separation, of farewell that prevailed over me. For maybe, this will be the last time that I will be setting my feet in the place I learned to love even more. (Perly Santillana, Community Facilitator, Bagumbayan, Sultan Kudarat)

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Parent leaders attend Basic Literacy Workshop in Sunrise Garden Resort, Lake Sebu, South Cotabato.

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CCT women in South Cotabato join the world in International Women’s Day celebration

KORONADAL CITY, South Cotabato — Thousands of women covered by government’s anti-poverty program joined the world in marking the annual International Women’s Day on Monday, a senior official of Department of Social Welfare and Development said.
Bai Zorahayda T. Taha, DSWD regional director, reported that women beneficiaries of Conditional Cash Transfer program accross South Cotabato province participated in the celebration of International Womens Day held at the South Cotabato Gymnasium and Cultural Complex.
“Aside from empowering them in terms of their rights, we are now working with the Department of Education to train them under Alternative Learning System program,” Taha said.
ALS is a free education program implemented by the Department of Education.
“We call on all women to rally behind the government’s effort to curve poverty,” DSWD 12 assistant regional director Gemma Rivera said.
International Women’s Day, a global day celebrating the economic, political and social achievements of women in the past, present and future, is celebrated on March 8th across the world. (End)

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DSWD turns over P3.6-M funds for social infra projects

Koronadal City—The Department of Social Welfare and Development Region-12 has turned over Monday a total of P3.6 million worth of checks for social infrastructure projects in towns of Isulan and Bagumbayan, Sultan Kudarat.

The check, which was handed over by DSWD regional director Bai Zorahayda T. Taha to Bagumbayan town Mayor Bernardita R. Bito-onon and Isulan LGU represented by Municipal Welfare and Development Officer Cecilia P. Gampong and volunteers, is composed of six community projects.

“These projects are among the identified priority poverty reduction projects by the local government units which are also endorsed by the civil society organizations,” Taha said.

The projects, which include construction of crisis center with facilities in Poblacion, Bagumbayan and rehabilitation of day care centers in the villages of Kalawag I, Kudanding, Sampao, Laguinding, and Laguilayan in Isulan, will be following the agency’s Kapit Bisig Laban sa Kahirapan-Comprehensive and Integrated Delivery of Services scheme of implementation.

DSWD-12 Regional Director Bai Zorahayda T. Taha hands over a P1.6-M amount of check to Bagumbayan Mayor Bernardita R. Bito-onon for the construction of crisis center

DSWD-12 Regional Director Bai Zorahayda T. Taha hands over a P1.6-M amount of check to Bagumbayan Mayor Bernardita R. Bito-onon for the construction of crisis center

Meanwhile, regional project coordinator Emerita Q. Dizon said that these projects are under the Bottom-up Planning and Budgeting or BUB Project of Aquino Administration which DSWD is one of the implementing agencies.

She said that under the project, DSWD earmarked a total of P91.72 million pesos to fund over 100 sustainable livelihoods, protective and social infrastructure projects in 25 municipalities in region-12.

BUB is an approach in formulating budget proposal of National Government Agencies, taking into consideration the development needs of poor municipalities, formulated with strong participation with civil society organizations. (Hilbert T. Estacion, DSWD-12)

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Idleness and Identity: The Plight of B’laans for Development

blaanCOLUMBIO, Sultan Kudarat— As the sun peeked from the mountains, casting its first rays on the small village of Maligaya, Julieto Marating, 48 years old and the B’laans’ community tribal chieftain, and his partner Elena knew that the morning was special, quite unlike the other Monday mornings they have seen.

The sun’s steady rise revealed the village in a spirit of celebration, and not just because it was a beautiful day marked with birds singing and foliage kissed by dew drops and sunlight. Wide smiles appeared on Julieto and Elena’s faces as the sights and sounds of the festivities in the barangay proper filled their senses: bamboo arcs and banderitas (bunting) served as decorations, beats of agongs echoed from a distance, and different kinds of native food were laid out for guests.

It was the 52nd anniversary of Maligaya, after all. For many, it was just their typical annual celebration. However, for Julieto, Elena and the rest of B’laan community, which comprise 35 percent of the total village population, it was even more special because for the first time, they will be the ones taking the center stage. Capping the village celebration was a milestone in the history of Sultan Kudarat- a mass wedding of 38 B’laan couples, including Julieto and Elena, who are all volunteers and beneficiaries of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) programs.

Unheard voices

B’laan communities are usually in the farthest and most remote villages of Southern Mindanao. They are most known for their well-preserved rich and colorful cultural heritage, arts, and handcrafts, including brass ornaments and distinctive beadwork.

Despite the richness of their culture and traditions, B’laans, like many Indigenous Peoples (IPs), are steeped in poverty and suffer from continuous deplacement from their lands.

Julieto’s family settled in a mountainous remote sitio of Mauno, a five-kilometer journey from the Barangay Maligaya proper, traversing a near-impassable path. With fellow B’laan farmers, Julieto relied on the abundance of nature, planting corn, bananas, and root crops for sustenance and income. Trapped in a cycle of grinding poverty, for a long time, they were almost isolated from government programs and from the rest of the world.

As he waited for the Fulong to officiate the mass wedding, Julieto, wearing his “saul laki”, a B’laan traditional men shirt made of abaca fibre, he recounted, “Murag me gipabay-an kaniadto, tungod nga naa kami sa mga bukid nagpuyo, tungod sa kalayo, halos dili me maabot ug makakita sa mga serbisyo sa gobyerno, kung naa man, halos pipila lang,” (Before, we felt we were left in the middle of nowhere because of the distance. We have limited access to government services).

To make matters worse, Julieto and the rest of B’laans had to face discrimination and deception.

“Kung manaug me gikan sa bukid arun magbaligya sa amoang mga produkto, ang uban sa amo kay dili gani kabalu mu-ihap, tungod kay nubo among tinun-an, sugot na lang kung pila ihatag sa manugpalit ug sila pud nagapresyo,” (Because some of us are illiterate, and don’t even know basic numeracy, if we had to go down from the mountain to sell our agricultural products, the one buying the product had control over the price, and we do not know that if the amount given was right],” Julieto sadly said as he fixed his salwal (trouser). Julieto was a Grade III dropout.

For Julieto, their voices crying out about their problems and struggles just kept echoing in their mountain, never getting out, giving them no chance of getting heard by those not from their community, and they felt that the small number of those who heard their plight chose not to listen to them.

Falling in Love with the DSWD Programs

Though there were several interventions given to them before, it was when the DSWD entered Columbio that the B’laans felt that they were finally heard, and they enthusiastically jumped in to participate in these initiatives.

DSWD worked hand in hand with the local government of Columbio and the community to implement the Kapit-Bisig Laban sa Kahirapan-Comprehensive and Integrated Delivery of Social Services (Kalahi-CIDSS), a community driven-development strategy in reducing poverty, improving local governance and empowering community by way of getting the citizenry to become involved throughout the process.

Inspired by the staffs who endured trekking mountains to reach their community, trying their best to involve them in village assemblies and planning, without undermining their capacities, Julieto was one among those who first showed support to the program.

Despite being the tribal chieftain, Julieto was hard-pressed to convince the B’laans to become involved in Kalahi-CIDSS. “Sa una, lisud kaayo dalhon ako ang mga katribu kay ilahang priyoridad mao ang makakaon kaysa sa mag adto sa mga assemblies,” (First, it was difficult to convince my tribe to support the program because their main priority is livelihood and not attending assemblies), Julieto said.

However, Julieto remembered happily how he convinced his tribe to forego a portion of their times usually used for livelihood for the Project, even if it sometimes meant walking a long distance to attend activities. He used the “sense of ownership” value as driving force to maximize support Kalahi-CIDSS. Little by little, they learned to love it, prioritizing it in their list of activities.

Indeed, their efforts had been paid off. Maligaya, with the collaborative efforts of all villagers, was able to construct a day care center, their chosen community project. The B’laans fully supported the Project for they believed that education is the best way to break the cycle of poverty, given their experiences.

The following year, B’laans were able to achieve yet another dream through Kalahi-CIDSS, a post-harvest facility. The community united in assemblies to plan for their solar dryer community project, which they constructed right in the middle of the village, chosen so they can increase the quality of their agricultural products and their income.

The increase in income allowed Elena to put food on their table for their family. However, this left them with almost nothing for the health and education needs for their three children.

Luckily, their family was included as one of the partner beneficiaries of Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (Pantawid), a conditional cash transfer program of the Philippine government also implemented by the DSWD. Through Pantawid, Elena was able to send her three children to school, all of whom are covered by the program.

The P1, 400.00 Elena receives each month has been a big help for Elena to sustain education and health needs of their children. The money they usually tried to set aside for education is now used by Julieto and Elena in their other livelihood activities. They were able to raise more domestic animals such as chickens, ducks, and pigs. They have also increased their agricultural inputs, thereby increasing also their income.

While the financial aid has greatly helped their family, what’s more important to Elena are the valuable lessons she learned by attending Pantawid’s Family Development Sessions such as enhancing family relationships, responsible parenthood, community participation, and leadership.

While Julieto keeps himself busy in Kalahi-CIDSS, Elena, as Parent Leader, helps in improving the implementation of Pantawid Pamilya by ensuring that B’laans in their community are complying the conditions of the program.

“Ang programa sa DSWD amo gyud gimahal ug parti na sa among kabuhi, kami ang naningkamot ini busa amoa kini kay mao ni ang among gipaabot sa kadugay na nga panahon,” (We have embedded in our lives and love the DSWD programs. We regard these as our own that is why we want these to become successful, because these are what we are waiting for a long time)”, Elena said, who wore a colorful an elegant embroidered B’laan wedding dress.

The Wedding, Gifts

The agong beats reverberated in the ears of everyone, signaling the start of the community wedding. The bright shimmering sun complemented the smiles and emotions of the soon to be husbands and wives. All of them are beneficiaries of Pantawid Pamilya Program who were collaboratively convinced by Julieto, barangay officials lead by Barangay Captain , DSWD staffs and local government officials to take the marriage vow.

The first in line were Julieto and Elena. While sitting on a mat, they fed each other rice and a boiled egg from a single plate, which symbolized oneness. A strand of hair on the head of Elena was then knotted together with a strand of hair from Juieto, symbolizing fidelity and faithfulness. While Elena knelt on a pillow, Julieto stood up and applied pressure to Elena’s shoulder with his knee, symbolizing her submission to him. Elena then performed the same task on Julieto’s shoulder.

It took two hours to perform traditional wedding rites, allowing non-B’laans to witness the tribe’s ceremonial activities. At the end, all the 38 newly wed couples granted the request of the giggling audience, who repeatedly shouted “Kiss!”

After the wedding ceremony, the largest wedding gift the B’laans received was finally unveiled. They were ushered to nearby building to witness the turnover of another Kalahi-CIDSS Project, a one unit 7m x 10.5m warehouse facility that the DSWD, LGU, local officials, B’laans and the rest of the community had collaboratively worked together.

For newly wed Julieto and Elena, however, the true gift that has given to them is the recognition of their contributions to the development efforts of the community. The perception that they are like idle people in the mountains; without use, without skills, without ideas, now slowly vanishing. Now, Blaans prove that they can drive their own development; they are not just an audience but rather actors of development. They were given the access to and control of key development decisions and resources. Through these, their village was significantly united and empowered without compromising their cultures and traditions, allowing them to retain their existence and identity as B’laans.

“Nakabalo ug nabatyagan namu nga kami ginarespeto ug ginakilala na kami bilang tao,” (In our hearts, we know and we feel that we are recognized and accepted as persons),” Julieto said, while holding the hands of his now officially called wife. While having lived together for more than 12 years already, this was the first time they were officially married.

It was indeed a beautiful day. By the time the sun was setting, the newlyweds still wearing their traditional wedding garb , stood together looking into the sky, holding on to the promise of a calm, peaceful night, and for a brighter tomorrow for their family and the rest of B’laan community. ### (Hilbert T. Estacion, Regional Social Marketing Officer, DSWD-12)

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NHTU field staff to be finalized soon

123The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) XII now finalizes the list of applicants for the second round assessment of the National Household Targeting System for Poverty Reduction or NHTS-PR.

For pooling of field workers, National Household Targeting Unit (NHTU) closely coordinates with National Statistics Office (NSO) XII, National Commission on Indigenous People (NCIP) XII and the academe in Region XII.

Jackiya A. Lao, NHTU head, emphasizes that while DSWD XII does the final assessment for each applicant, the short lists are still recommended by the NSO, NCIP and the academe.

She further noted that the completeness and accuracy of the NHTO database of poor households rest mainly on how well the field personnel perform their roles and functions.

“Choosing the right field workers is just as important as training them as it will ensure they work on completeness, accuracy and reliability of the NHTS-PR Database”, Lao explained.

DSWD XII targets to hire a total of 2,649 field workers who are expected to complete the second cycle with 1,615 Enumerators (Ens), 323 Area Supervisors (AS), 65 Area Coordinators (AC), 323 Encoders and 323 Verifiers.

According to Lao, these hired field staffs will undergo a week-long intensive training.

In line with this, NHTU staffs were recently sent to Manila for a Training-Orientation for Trainers (TOT). The five-day exercise conducted by the National Household Targeting Office (NHTO) aimed to capacitate the NHTU staffs in facilitating the training of hired field staff soon.

“We cannot just deploy these people who will have significant roles in developing the second cycle of NHTS-PR without equipping them with everything they have to know about the project”, Lao explains.

Accordingly, the training will be a combination of lectures, written exercise, demonstration interview, mock interview and field practices.

As mandated in Executive order 867, the NHTS-PR database will be updated every four years. As such, the second nationwide household assessment will be done this year.

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